I’ve hesitated to put pen to paper, or in this case keys to text, for a while now. It’s not that I haven’t had thoughts or opinions. Instead, I’ve realized how unique and individual each situation is…while we are all “in this together” and experiencing the challenges of COVID-19 our individual lives and demands (read: family, work, life) look vastly different. And that makes it hard to suggest, with broad generalities, a tactic or pattern of thought by which to approach training within this “new normal”. I find myself cringing each time I see a broad-brush stroke espousing an easy fix or solution. However, social distancing guidelines, postponed or canceled races, gym closures and the like are not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. So now what?
Allow me to make three suggestions: 1) gain perspective; 2) intentionally reflect; and 3) purposefully invest. Interested? I hope so – keep reading…
None of us were born at the beginning of the 20th century; however, if you were here’s what you would’ve experienced.
And while these events were all global, with far reaching impacts, they leave out all of the local, regional, and national events that also shaped the collective history and life experience(s). Are you starting to see the trend? Obstacles, challenges, suffering – it’s all unavoidable. It’s part of life. We live in a broken world, and while technological, scientific, health, educational and many more advances have significantly improved aspects related to our quality of life one truth remains – life is not easy.
So, with that in mind what’s the next step?
When I was growing up I got into trouble a fair amount. Whenever this would happen my dad would say, “I hope it was worth it.” Though it rarely was, this statement was his way of asking, “Does the cost vs. benefit analysis make sense?” In short, he was encouraging me to reflect.
Reflection, critically thinking, and analyzing is an important part of our day-to-day lives. And, unfortunately, something that is less and less common. We are far too reactionary, impulsive, and immediate in our interactions and thoughts. Life is not analogous to Amazon Prime or next day delivery.
Perhaps one benefit which has come out of the “work from home” and “social distancing” measures is being forced to slow down a bit, which in turn has allowed me more time to think critically. Perhaps you’ve noticed the same. But how does this relate to training, performance, and our “new normal”?
Critical reflection has allowed me to better understand and define my “why” for training. Sure, the races have always been a nice icing on the cake…a proving ground to see how I compare or stack up against the competition (e.g. AG ranking, AWA status, etc.). But that’s just it – it’s always been the ‘extra’ and not the main course. So why then have I continued to train long past collegiate athletics…why do I spend the long hours away from family…why do I set my alarm clock for an early morning session? Glenn Cunningham says it best:
"People can’t understand why a man runs. They don’t see any sport in it. Argue it lacks the sight and thrill of body contact. Yet, the conflict is there, more raw and challenging than any man versus man competition. For in running it is man against himself, the cruelest of opponents. The other runners are not the real enemies. His adversary lies within him, in his ability, with brain and heart to master himself and his motions.”
You see, at least for me, it has never been about the races or external motivation. Instead, it’s always been about the daily battle – me vs. me. And here’s some good news. I can wage that battle day in and day out regardless of an epidemic, pandemic or outbreak. Sure, the races are awesome, and I’ll be one of the first to start planning my race calendar when safe to do so. But for today, tomorrow, and next week I’ll still be training (physically, nutritionally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually), and I’ll still be working to improve 1-2% over who I was yesterday. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
And here’s the bonus – all those miles logged, pounds lifted, sets and reps completed is a heck of an investment both in my personal health (direct) but also in the example it may set for my family and friends (indirect). One thing’s for sure, “work from home” has allowed my kids to see exactly how I budget my time (suggestion 2a: if you have kids involve them – here’s a crazy 50 lb. sandbag we built together. Makes a great training tool if you’re short on weight), and on what, how, and where I’m invested. Which brings us to our final suggestion…
First things first, while I’m not going to offer financial advice I am going to borrow a parallel from the financial world. Endurance and performance training are not too different from your 401k, Roth IRA, or any other investment account or portfolio you’re maintaining. To have success in the financial markets knee jerk reactions and unexamined decisions typically do not work in your favor. In fact, they tend to do the exact opposite, resulting in loss and disappointment. What takes months, years, and decades to accumulate in financial wealth can be lost in seconds due to reactionary decisions. Additionally, it can be incredibly challenging to make the monthly or quarterly contributions to your accounts knowing full well you’ll not be able to reap the rewards for years, or even decades, to come. So why even do it?
Consistent investments yield long-term rewards. Period.
Compound interest is a heck of a benefit but helps only minimally when deposits are made in a herky-jerky or ‘all at once’ fashion. There’s just no substitute. And so to for endurance and performance training. There’s no substitute for making that daily tally. Physical adaptation takes time and cannot be rushed (though often is attempted through PEDs and ulterior means). You’ve got to daily commit to the process of refining who you are in order to lay the foundation that leads to where you want to be.
Looking forward to racing again? Already planning your race calendar for 2021 and beyond? Then right now is the perfect time to purposefully invest! Get rid of the excess, the things that continue to waste your time.
First things first, second things not at all.
Start today by taking ownership of your time. Doing so, along with the minutes and maybe hours saved from commuting, will allow you to invest about one hour daily, at minimum, to improve who and what you are. And remember, training is multidimensional. Focus not only on your physical development but also your mental, emotional, spiritual, and nutritional development, to name a few. And, if finances allow, make a few investments from the dollars saved from race registrations and travel expenses. Work with a performance coach who can help you begin to establish the habits and healthy structure to training you’ll need to reach the next level, or invest in weights and a structured plan to improve capacity and build strength. Seek to minimize or eliminate all together that which antagonizes who and where you want to be.
Whatever your goal is for the future – health, wellness, performance, AG ranking, BQ, Kona qualification… Now may be the best time to gain some perspective, renew your commitment through intentional reflection, and purposefully invest for the future.
Life is not easy – never has been and never will be. Training is not easy – never has been and never will be. But isn’t that ultimately why we do it?
To those on the front lines, those in our hospitals and healthcare facilities – thank you for your work and dedication. Wishing you all health, wellness, and fruitful training.
Joel Sattgast is a physical therapist, performance coach, assistant professor of physical therapy, a Dad, husband, and an athlete. All posts are related to evidence, opinions and thoughts regarding various performance and rehabilitation topics.